This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, May 12, 1999

May 12, 1999 - Community Theater

Like a lot of imaginative but inexperienced high school students, I was sure I'd make a great actor. So in my freshman year, I tried out for a play. It was "Wind in the Willows," and I read for the part of Toad -- the lead.

To my utter astonishment, I got it. Excited, I went to the first rehearsal, where I picked up my script and ran some of the lines.

At the second rehearsal, I destroyed my high school acting career.

In my own defense, I have to admit that I was a pretty emotionally repressed kid. So when I tried, up there on stage, to demonstrate some strong feelings, an internal barrier abruptly broke. Half way through that rehearsal, the director made a perfectly appropriate suggestion for how to do something. My response? I threw a tantrum. Then I tossed down my script, and stormed out of the theater. This was, for me, utterly "out of character."

It also had consequences. The next day, the director fired me. He also let me know that I wouldn't be getting any other acting chances in high school. Three years later, I did manage to slip into our high school a capella choir -- mostly because it was so desperate for boys. I played several very minor roles in the musicals we put on, I think with quiet distinction.

But that first experience stays with me. It's one of those hot, fresh memories that surfaces when I wake at 2 in the morning, along with a host of other occasions when I have provided to the world the clearest possible evidence that I am a jerk.

So this year, I decided that I was going to purge my past. I heard that the new community theater group, the Castle Rock Players, was auditioning for Fiddler on the Roof. I landed the role of Motel the Tailor, who was always one of my favorites. I'm pleased to report that I have yet to be fired.

Incidentally, Fiddler comes from "The Tevye Stories," written by Yiddish story-teller Sholom Aleichem, and are as poignant, funny, and moving now as when they were written. (Aleichem was a contemporary of Mark Twain.) The play was written by Joseph Stein. The music, of course, is by the incomparable song-writing team of Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock.

I have to say that attending rehearsals is almost as much fun as working in the library. Maybe more fun, because I am not the director of the play. Katie Klossner, who is the director, is a delight to watch. She's highly organized, capable of communicating clearly and often hilariously with actors of all ages. She also has a fierce and authoritative insight about how things ought to look and feel. Sam Sortore is equally gifted as the musical director -- he coaxes the most surprising performances out of even amateurs like me.

But everybody is good, from our somewhat befuddled rabbi (the character, not the actor) to the youngest singer and dancer. And our Tevye is enthralling.

One of the surprises to me, though, was the economic side of community theater. The costs for the script alone are $1,600 -- and you have to give them back at the end. To rent the performance space, combined with rehearsal time, will run another $4,000 or more. That doesn't include the costs for set constructions, marketing, and all the other things it takes to put on a show. All told, it takes about $10K to put on a show.

Recognize that there is no solid source of funding for the group -- just ticket sales (which come, obviously, at the end), and donations. To be frank, the continuance of community theater in Castle Rock is by no means certain.

Local theater is like a library in that it preserves and presents our past. But in theater, instead of just reading great works, people also struggle to bring them alive, often with a fresh interpretation that adds new depth and meaning. People also learn something about hard work, professionalism, and giving their best.

Fiddler will be showing at the Douglas County High School on June 3, 4, 5, and 6. Please consider reaching into your pocket to support this altogether worthwhile endeavor. The 90 members of the cast are already contributing not only their time, but in many cases, their own props, costumes, and cash. Please make your contributions payable to the Castle Rock Players, PO Box 1224, Castle Rock CO 80104.

And oh yes, enjoy the show. I know I will..

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